The Telegraph e-Paper
The Telegraph
 

Bridge too old to take traffic volume

Traffic jams are a regular affair on the narrow Santragachhi rail bridge, particularly during busy morning and evening hours when the volume of traffic is high on Kona Expressway. Often trucks, trailers, buses and cars stand still in long queues caught in the jam. The jam spreads to Belepole on one side and Howrah Truck Terminal on another.

The bridge was built over the rail track near Santragachhi station during the construction of Kona Expressway. Both the Kona Expressway and the bridge were completed at the end of the 90s. Though it is now easy for people to reach downtown Calcutta through Kona Expressway, the Santragachhi rail bridge is a headache one has to cross on the way. “I can drive smoothly till Howrah Truck Terminal, but once I reach Santragachhi rail bridge, I am invariably caught in a jam for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Not just me, even ambulances are stranded here,” said Samar Chatterjee, a resident of Makardah.

He said that there is bumper-to-bumper traffic with very little space even for bikers to wriggle through. “When the bridge was built, the volume of traffic on the Kona Expressway was less. In the last 10 years, the volume of traffic has increased manifold. So the bridge needs to be expanded for smooth movement of traffic,” said Bidhan Chandra, public relation officer, South-Eastern Railway.

The rail bridge that was built nearly two decades ago is now no longer capable of handling the heavy load of traffic from Kona Expressway. The situation turns worse if a truck or trailer breaks down on the bridge. “Until the vehicle is removed from the bridge, other vehicles move at a snail’s pace. If there is a breakdown in the middle of the bridge, vehicles cannot move even an inch for nearly half-an-hour. Had the bridge been wide enough such traffic jams would not have taken place in the first instance” said a traffic sergeant, who was often on duty on the bridge. “Not only the bridge but the entire Kona Expressway needs to be expanded for smooth flow of traffic,” he said.

He added that the one-way rule that was followed on Kona Expressway must be followed on the bridge too. “But the bridge is so narrow that one-way norm cannot be implemented,” said another traffic sergeant.

Those who are aware of the condition of Kona Expressway have been advocating for the immediate expansion of the link road between Vidyasagar Setu and NH6 or driving along the road would be difficult with each passing year.

The traffic sergeants manning the Kona Expressway think that jam on the bridge will turn severe once the Babu Ghat bus stand is shifted to Santragachhi. “The volume of traffic will go up fourfold. More that 200 buses and mini buses will ply along the road every day but the capacity of the road and of Santragachhi rail bridge has already reached saturation point,” said Subhas Dutta, an environmentalist.

Amrita Ghosh